Stephen M. Pate



Himself a pioneer of California, and the descendant of one of the earliest settlers in this part of the State, Stephen M. Pate was born on the Pate ranch , in Mariposa County, on February 19, 1859, the youngest child born to his parents, Francis Marion and Lorinda (Cornett) Pate.  Francis Marion Pate was a native of Alabama, the son of a planter; he entered the U. S. Army under Taylor, in the Mexican War, and after the war continued on to California, reaching Los Angeles in 1848, with his horse, saddle, and a few personal effects as his only resources. On hearing the news of the gold discovery, he came to this part of the State, and went into the Southern Mines,  He later joined the military company which was responsible for the quelling of the Yosemite Indian troubles, being stationed at Fort Miller.  his marriage, in 1852, at Aqua Fria, Mariposa County, united him with Lorinda Cornett, nee Binge,  who was born in Kentucky and married in Missouri.  Her first husband died in 1850, and she with her two sons and a daughter, accompanied a party of immigrants across the plains, in 1850, settling in Mariposa.

With his new family, the hardy pioneer settled on 160 acres of land in Mariposa County; this land was not then surveyed, but it proved to be the home place of the Pate family where Stephen M. was born.  His father built with crude tools the first home, a cabin on the land they had chosen as a heritage; titles to land were questionable, but he stayed, and own the right to his acreage.  They had many bad years, and making a livelihood was very hard and strenuous for the pioneers of that early day; stock as high was twenty dollars per steer to the butcher; they made butter and sold eggs, and this brought the only medium of exchange for many years.    Mr. Pate, Sr. made journeys to Stockton for supplies before the railway was put in and these trips took seven days of hard traveling.  He engaged in livestock, sheep and wool growing, and in the fifties, started with grain raising, and single- handed and by remitting toil, strict integrity, and keen foresight, he added to his holdings by subsequent purchases until he owned 300 acres at the time of his death.  He was a staunch Republican, though born in the South, and was an active participant in the building up of his community in the days when each  man had to stand on his own feet, or fail.

Stephen M. Pate received much of his schooling in private school, kept usually in the home, and attended for a time the Cathey Valley district school.  Large for his age, much of his early life was spent in the saddle on the stock range, and as soon as he became old enough he followed the teaming and freighting business from Merced to Hornitos and the mines for six years; he at one time owned five ten-animal teams all closely matched which were the pride of the young man; none on the road at that time had better stock and his teams were conspicuous on the highways, fine large mules, and large white draft horses.  He conducted a stable, and owned his own blacksmith shop at Mt. Bullion, and before he reached his majority he was employing at times as high as twenty men.  Mr. Pate later entered the stock and ranching business on his father's ranch. Finally buying the home place, he engaged in the cattle and hog-raising business.  Cholera at one time struck down 500 head of his hogs in a season.  He branched into extensive business, but never over-reached in the dealings, and was always known to be honest and straightforward, all of which no doubt contributed largely to his success.  By subsequent purchases he added lands until he owned 5000 acres, of which 2000 acres were farming lands.  He raised mules and horses for his own use, as well as for the market, and he engaged for six years in the sheep and wool business, as a breeder of Merino sheep.

In 1918, Mr. Pate moved to Le Grand, Merced County, after selling the old Pate ranch in 1917, and here he owns a fine home, constructed on the old Mission style of architecture, the property embracing eighty acres on the edge of town. In the meantime he has invested in other properties in Merced County, and his success has bee remarkable  He built up the well-known Lone Tree Dairy, which sold nine years ago for $64,000.  He owns 443 acres in the Merced Irrigation District nine miles southwest of Merced which is being farmed by his son, Harvey, who lives with his wife and two daughters. Of late years Mr. Pate has become an extensive feeder of livestock for market, and rents large land in Mariposa and Merced counties.  One of the very rarest incidents in his life occurred in 1917, when for a period of twenty-four hours he was entirely out of business; had no employees, etc, and it was the only like period in his entire business career of over forty-six years.  Many of the men whom he employed during this long stretch of time have become successful, like himself, and this is one of the greatest sources of gratification; to see other prosper, too, and in building up their success, and in the up building of the district.

The first marriage of Mr. Pate, which occurred in the Cathey Valley, united him with Martha Andrews, a native of Illinois, her death occurred in June, 1906, survived by six children:  Louis F., of Le Grand; Mrs. Olive L. Latour, of Merced; Samuel M., of Visalia; Mrs. Edna Hurd, of Oakland; Harvey W., of Merced; and Leota, now deceased.

On June 3, 1907, Mr. Pate's second marriage occurred, uniting him with Lottie Wilson, born in Stockton, the seventh of eight children born to Samuel and Malinda (Key) Wilson, natives of Kentucky who crossed the plains in 1853, and settled near Stockton and engaged in ranching. They moved to Merced in 1896, where both their deaths occurred.  Their property was a valuable ranch on the edge of Merced, the present group of Merced High School buildings being now on a part of the property, it having been acquired from the heirs of the estate a few years ago.  A staunch Democrat, Mr. Pate has never aspired to public office, except as pertains to his business interest. He is a active  member and president of the California Cattle Men's Association, and attends the meeting regularly, giving much of his time to the study of cooperative problems. Fraternally he is a Past Grand of the Merced Lodge No. 208, I..O.O.F.

History of Merced
History of Merced County, California : with a biographical review of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present
Los Angeles, Calif.: Historic Record Co., 1925, 903 pgs.  page 526

Contributed by: Carol Lackey